Big Basin has been mostly closed since early January 2023 due to storm damage. The Redwood Nature Loop has sometimes opened for a few days at a time, but the other trails have not reopened. Falling trees are a prominent danger in the park because the fire left so many dead trees and tree limbs.
Almost all of Big Basin was heavily damaged in the August 2020 CZU Lightning Fire. The park re-opened in July 2022, with about 75 cars per day allowed in by reservation only.
Two trails are open: the 0.6-mile Redwood Loop Trail, and the 1-mile climb to Middle Ridge on the Dool Trail. A CCC crew was working on the Meteor Trail in August, so maybe some longer trails will open soon.
Several fire roads are also open; a quiet 12-mile loop on Gazos Creek, Johansen, and Middle Ridge Roads is available and is mainly used by mountain bikers. Johansen Road is covered with about an inch of fine dust, so you can end up breathing in a lot of dust on this loop.
Almost everything that can be seen from the entrance roads, fire roads, and trails has been severely damaged by crown fires. Uplands were much more heavily damaged than lowlands, but the forest canopy has been burned away nearly everywhere, leaving the ground in full and rather harsh sunlight. Most of the redwoods have survived, but they look like green pipe cleaners, with their branches gone and re-sprouted foliage covering their trunks. Only some small second-growth areas in the bottoms of ravines escaped the fire with minimal damage.
The damage was so extensive that the old look and feel of the park is entirely gone. It doesn’t feel like Big Basin was transformed by the fire; it feels like it was replaced by a completely different park. Judging from how much regeneration there’s been in the last two years, it will take decades for the park to recover its attractive old-growth appearance, if it ever does.
Redwoods were the only trees to survive in many places, so if the forest can recover, it will be much more of a pure redwood forest than before. Fire really does give redwoods an advantage over other trees.
The centerpiece of Big Basin, this trail winds through a flat with the park’s oldest and largest trees.
The Dool Trail climbs into redwood uplands that were much more heavily affected by the CZU Fire than the lowlands near the parking lot.
Explore Big Basin before the fire with the old version of this site.
© 2022 David Baselt